Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Get back in the box

The 30 second TV spot is dead.

Industry pundits are fond of making outrageous, click baiting statements like that. And in most cases their proclamations couldn't be further from the truth. But in the case of the declaration above, they are 50% correct.

Agencies are still filming spots for TV. And the Internet. And the mobile screen. But the 30 second time constraint is dead.

It's gone the way of the complimentary airline meal, the live customer service representative and the yearly raise and bonus.

Now spots run 1:27 or 2:43 or even 4:39. They're big and bloated. Not unlike the compensation packages for holding company CEO's.

It's this newfangled thing the kids are calling long-format video.

And like the cold matzo ball soup that sometimes emerges from the kitchen at the Roll 'N Rye Deli, I don't like it.

Not that the content isn't good, sometimes as in the case of this short, it is exceedingly good.

Though I will add it's relevance to Expedia is a bit tenuous. Don't get me wrong I enjoy watching outrageously attractive lesbians as much as the next fellow, I just don't know what their exotic lifestyle has to do with me renting a Nissan Altima and booking my next cheap flight to Tacoma?

My main objection, however, is the open endedness of it all.

When there's no time limit there's simply no degree of difficulty. In essence we've removed the skill and artistry needed to perform a high dive and turned it into belly flop.

We've taken the lid off the box.  And staying in the box, as my pal Ernie Schenck argues, is where the magic happens.

The box gives birth to craft.

When I first started in the business, Lee Clow would tell us to edit rough cuts as if they were 37 or 41 second spots. Get the story right, he would say. Make it clear. Go from Point A to Point B and make your case.

Then, when everything is in place, start shaving, or frame-fucking as we used to call it.

What happened? The 30 second finish line made us run faster, leaner and smarter. In other ancient ad industry vernacular, we learned how to "kill our babies", those precious magical moments that would make us smile but did little to serve the purpose of the spot.

I know my colleagues don't like to hear this, but we are employed in the advertising business. We're not, as Stefan Sagmeister put it "storytellers."

We spend our client's money to make communication pieces that help our clients sell more of their shit, like diapers, compact trucks, or brown fizzy water.

Put another way, if you wanted to be a storyteller and have your vision committed to celluloid maybe you shouldn't have gone into advertising.

You should have pursued a career in film or TV, you know, industries with pure artistic integrity that have not been sullied by commerce.


Ernie Schenck said...

Hey, bro, thanks for the plug. As you know, when you're #1,141,663 on Amazon, you can always use a good plug. Thanks.

glasgowdick said...

Listen to you, Oprah.

My book is at 2,958,761.